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  • Miss Elva
  • Written by Stephens Gerard Malone
  • Format: Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9780679313403
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Miss Elva

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Written by Stephens Gerard MaloneAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Stephens Gerard Malone

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On Sale: April 13, 2011
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-307-36999-4
Published by : Vintage Canada RH Canadian Publishing
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A haunting canvas of jealousy, betrayal and atonement that can take its rightful place alongside Fall on Your Knees and Mercy Among the Children.

1970. A tiny fisherman’s shack on the dark Nova Scotia coast, eccentrically covered with folk art images (à la Maud Lewis), which are all the work of a benign, disfigured mute whom the locals dismiss as a misshapen nobody. Miss Elva. Only one man knows that the whimsical, primitive art old Elva painfully creates is her voice, damning the madness of love and lamenting decades of lies.

He is also the only person still alive who remembers Elva as she was in the summer of 1927, a crippled little thing in the shadow of her beautiful half-sister, Jane. That peculiar summer of snow and rum-runners when the black sheep Gil returned to a troubled town for his father’s funeral, dogged by sin and retribution — only to find that his handsome twin brother, Dom, has become Jane’s lover. The unhappy reunion breeds rivalry and self-loathing, complicated by racial violence and religious intolerance. And Elva, missing nothing and hoping to free those she loves from pain, unwittingly unleashes the fire that destroys them all.

A master of narrative tension, Stephens Gerard Malone saves one last twist for the end — the “miracle” of redemption — driving home his evocative tale of jealousy and its disturbing consequences.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt

PART ONE

1927


Jane at sixteen was all flaming youth and cheekbones. Bold to her betters some’d say, mostly Rilla, by way of apologizing for her daughter. Jane would never be sorry for a goddamned thing, but Jesus! That girl could turn the head of a stone angel.

Now you didn’t usually see her kind in Demerett Bridge, Mi’kmaq had their place up in Indian Brook, but Rilla had that thing going with her white man Amos so you couldn’t very well say no. And Jane? Half white so no one minded her checking herself out in windows up and down Commercial Street on account of her good half being on the outside. So, Girl don’t you be giving me any business, was all she’d get from King Duplak for sassin’ him and saying she’d make that ol’ catalogue dress and wouldn’t buy it in his shitty five­and­dime even if she could. She ripped the page right out of the T. Eaton book and slipped it into her pocket so she could paste it on her mirror.

Rilla was searching through cans on the shelf and Duplak said, Hey now, it took the wife some time to get them all facing right like. So Rilla counted out nickels, going red at the cheeks ’cause she’d been caught looking for cheaper prices in behind. Be glad when this strike’s over, Mr. Duplak.

Christ, she’s going to want this on account, King was thinking, knowing full well what no rails coming off the foundry lines meant. Wouldn’t be enough for Amos Stearns to feed his harem over there on Kirchoffer Place, specially since he’d been off sick. Amos’d been the security man at the foundry, sort of like a policeman with a lot more hitting power, but what good was that if you had to spend half your day in the crapper? When Amos’s poor stomach became a regular thing, there was talk of a pension or something, then the manager, Urban Dransfield – who everyone in Demerett Bridge now hated because of the strike – said, Thank you very much you can’t work any more here’s a watch with your name on it.

That was before the strike, and now, not so many potatoes for the stew pot. No paycheques in a town controlled by the Maritime Foundry Corporation meant Amos’d been unable to meet ends with the boarders in that place of his. Must be why his old lady was back on the road. King’d seen for himself Stearns’s Mi’kmaq whore in that old Ford of his. Heard she was doing washing as far north as Raven River for those German yahoos up there. Hey, honest folks were hurting too and thank Jesus they’d rather starve before swabbing out skivvies and bedsheets for River people. Yeah, right. If washing was all she was doing. King smiled, remembering the old days when Rilla wasn’t looking so hard-ridden. Why if it wasn’t for the wife out back, he’d show Amos’s squaw his own laundry shed.

He counted each coin again. Didn’t matter that the woman had been a customer for over thirteen years. It’s not like she was Stearns’s legal wife. Indians got no credit no how, so Jane didn’t need a new dress and no, added Rilla, you’re not getting your hair bobbed either.

Daylight flooded through the open door catching the dust unawares. Barely reaching the latch, Harry had shadowed Rilla and her girls into the store. He was too young to be captivated by Jane’s adolescent charms or to know he shouldn’t stare at the other sister, well, half­sister, the one who wasn’t as pretty as Jane. Normally the ugly one sat out on the front porch when she came into Demerett Bridge shopping with her ma and Jane. Sometimes she’d colour with chalk on a writing tablet. Once when she did it, Harry stopped carving his name in backwards letters into the steps of his dad’s pool hall across the street, came over and looked. Said she couldn’t draw and why didn’t she draw boats? He might like them better if she did boats, but the girl, Elva, just said, Go away. She didn’t sit outside today because there were men on the corner, shouting now, looking to make trouble for someone new around these parts.

Elva had trouble breathing on hot days or when she got herself worked into a lather, so when she turned away from the window and said, You have to help him, it came out all huffy.

Rilla stared at the Elva girl. What was she thinking, giving orders to Mr. Duplak?

Jane flipped another page in the catalogue. Big deal. It wasn’t like anyone was going to take notice of her. “Help who and stop that wheezing.”

It took ages for Elva to get out, “There’s a man on top of the clock. Went up it like a caterpillar. He’s jabbing it with an army knife.”

How could he do that and hold on to the clock? Jane wanted to know, but more men were tumbling out of the pool hall and crowding around the clock so Elva didn’t say. They were grey and furry like rats, Elva said and added, “There’s no more poison and there’s rats in the cellar.”

Jane reached over and pinched her arm.

“Don’t!”

“What’s he doing now?” Mr. King Duplak came over to the window to see for himself.

The pole sitter was showing the others a silver timepiece, one of those really old­fashioned watches on a fob that used to sway like a garland across fancy waistcoats. From the window where she watched, standing on her toes to be as tall as Jane, Elva guessed the watch had once been broken and maybe he’d repaired it. Probably thought he could set the town clock too. Some people are born that way. Wanting to fix things even when they don’t want fixin’, only the man no one had never seen in Demerett Bridge before didn’t know about the clock being sacred and you don’t touch it.

“Is he cute?” Jane asked.

“He’s kind of pasty and he wears funny glasses but he’s dreamy.”

Jane was always saying dreamy this or dreamy that, so lately dreamy was Elva’s favourite word. Then she got all short for breath again when the men outside starting throwing rocks.

“He’ll fall and break his glasses!”

“Show’s over,” said Mr. Duplak, drawing the blinds. The town clock hadn’t kept time since the hurricane of ’04, and according to King Duplak, he’d no business up there in the first place. The rusting timepiece was a tribute of sorts, but less to the Nova Scotian town surviving the storm and more to the prevailing Scottish thriftiness that didn’t see the need to pay for a monument when a perfectly useless clock would do.

“Pink­whiskered Jesus! Like a pack of dogs been through here! Who’s going to clean that?”

It hadn’t been enough for li’1 Harry Winters to follow Elva into the store and stare at her. No. He had to go to the counter for a penny jawbuster, then wander over to the corner where he stood wide­eyed and sucking, oblivious to the trail of black muck from his shoes. Goddamned tar ponds! A mecca for boys of Harry’s age, wanting to throw stuff in, or worse, drag dead things out. Now Harry’s cub­like marks were everywhere.


From the Hardcover edition.
Stephens Gerard Malone

About Stephens Gerard Malone

Stephens Gerard Malone - Miss Elva

Photo © David Parker

Stephens Gerard Malone has been a mortgage clerk in Calgary, a silver-service waiter in New Zealand, an envelope stuffer in Toronto and a sex-advice columnist. His first novel, Miss Elva, was a finalist for the Dartmouth Book Award. He lives in Nova Scotia.
Praise | Awards

Praise

Miss Elva distills the panoramic small-town tragedy down to its narrative essence, and the result is a strange and stangely elegant little book whose tense momentum rarely wanes.”
Quill & Quire

“A relentlessly action-packed, often menacing story of love and loss. . . . To label this novel ‘gothic’ would be to undermine its almost feral energy. . . . The characters, however, are well drawn and intense, and even the minor ones are memorable. There is some lovely writing, as well.
National Post

Miss Elva is a deeply poignant story, fashioned by a writer whose sensitivity to his characters holds us to its bittersweet ending.”
–Donna Morrissey, author of Kit’s Law and Sylvanus Now

“A page-turning chronicle of lust, drunkenness, violence and deceit set on Nova Scotia’s craggy coast 80 years ago. Stephens Gerard Malone is the chronicler, and this first-time author and Maritimer-by-choice doesn’t miss a beat. Miss Elva is plot plus. It’s an action-driven narrative thickened with wonderful tension as back story and present action meet in a harrowing climax of murder, fire and flood. . . . Malone masterfully captures the grinding poverty of his characters and their place in history. . . . A thing of beauty. . . . In Elva, Malone has created a knowing character, and yet a lack of sentimentality keeps her totally believable. . . . An entirely readable novel that manages to transcend its insalubrious setting.”
Edmonton Journal


From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

NOMINEE 2005 Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction

  • Miss Elva by Stephens Gerard Malone
  • July 04, 2006
  • Fiction
  • Vintage Canada
  • $14.50
  • 9780679313403

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